In his op-ed column of Jan. 22, Henry Kissinger wrote, "Russia never had a church that emphasized a concept of justice independent of temporal authority; it knew no Reformation with its commitment to individual conscience; no Enlightenment that emphasized the power of reason." Kissinger seems ignorant of the holy man to whom St. Basil's Cathedral, the church near the Kremlin, is dedicated: St. Basil the Blessed, who publicly rebuked Czar Ivan the Terrible for his atrocities.
Kissinger also failed to note the host of Orthodox and Catholic bishops, priests, monastics and laypersons who gave their lives in ages past and in this century as witnesses to the transcendence of God's justice over governments' laws.
The value of individual conscience did not come with the Reformation. More than a thousand years before Luther, St. John Chrysostom maintained that the state should not persecute heretics.
Centuries before Calvin, St. Thomas Aquinas articulated the theory of natural law, according to which the rights, dignity and duties of human beings are derived from God, not from human authorities, with the function of governments to safeguard these rights and to encourage their responsible development; unjust governments can and should be overthrown.
The power of reason was acclaimed by Christians long before the so-called Enlightenment. Both Eastern and Western Christian teachers such as St. Clement of Alexandria, St. Jerome, St. Augustine, St. Maximos, St. Photius and St. Thomas Aquinas celebrated the power of the human intellect to search for truth and to admit when it has reached its limits. The experimental revolution in science began not with Galileo but with the medieval friar Albertus Magnus.
As a Byzantine-rite Catholic, I am in communion with the Roman Catholic Church and have strong sympathies for the Russian Orthodox Church.
I resent Kissinger's facile authorization of the most deeply held American religious prejudices. -- Lawrence D. Goodall